Polk State’s inaugural HR VP brings two decades of experience

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

Stacey Cary may be new to Florida, but she’s no stranger to human resources or higher education as she joins Polk State College as its first Vice President for Human Resources.

Born and raised in Iowa, Cary has spent most of her life off the Mississippi River in a region known as the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois.

“I only ever left for college, and that was in Northern Iowa about two hours away,” Cary shared. “When looking for the next step in my career, I was very selective in looking for an opportunity where HR had a seat at the executive table. A lot of colleges started popping up in my search, but coming from a community college background, Polk State stuck out to me.”

Cary brings 27 years of administrative experience to the College, with more than two decades in human resources leadership. Since 2014, she served as Director of Human Resources at Black Hawk College, part of the Illinois Community College Board.

“Stacey brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and leadership that will strengthen our College and provide further support for our employees,” Polk State President Angela Garcia Falcoentti said. “I am positive that she will serve as an asset to our College.”

She holds a master’s degree in Business Administration from St. Ambrose University and a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the University of Northern Iowa.

“When studying accounting, I quickly found that I loved meeting with people in person, rather than meeting with a spreadsheet on my computer,” she reflected on her transition from accounting to human resources.

She also noted her desire to help others, having only ever worked in higher education or nonprofit organizations, never the private sector.

“Stacey brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and leadership that will strengthen our College and provide further support for our employees. I am positive that she will serve as an asset to our College.”

Dr. Angela Garcia Falconetti
President, Polk State College

“As hard as it is to have unpleasant conversations in our HR roles, it is extremely rewarding when you are able to help someone with their employment, professional goals, and development,” Cary explained.

Naturally, she is a huge proponent of higher education and professional development, especially for aspiring human resources professionals.

“For a long time, not a lot of colleges even offered human resources as a major,” she explained. “I fully support higher education as a whole, especially the importance of professional development, certifications, and recertifications.”

This is serendipitous as Polk State launched its Human Resources Management concentration within its Bachelor of Science in Supervision and Management Program last fall.

Cary is dually certified as a Senior Certified Professional with her Inclusive Workplace Culture Specialty Credential through the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and as a Senior Human Resources Professional through the Human Resources Certification Institute.

When she is not working on her professional goals, Cary is working on her health. One of her first orders of business when moving to Florida was to sign up for a gym, as working out keeps her centered and has been an important part of her life for 10 years.

She also enjoys spending time with her bulldog, Roxy.

Cary is the proud mother of her son, 26-year-old Chance, and she looks forward to his visits and their first trip to Disney World.

Cary and her late husband were also avid boaters, having lived right off the Mississippi River.

“The lakes and alligators make me nervous though,” she admitted. “The worst thing that can bite you in the Mississippi River is a catfish.”

Regardless, she is already embracing Florida life in her new Winter Haven home and wonders if she will inspire her family and fellow Iowa natives to make the escape to the Sunshine State.

“I look forward to their visits and I’m excited to be here at Polk State,” Cary said. “Being in this inaugural role, I look forward to hearing from my teammates and members of the team I am supervising about where they see HR going. With that input, I will work to develop a plan for our College’s HR Department.”